“There are different degrees of glory in heaven. Some saints will there be exalted higher in glory than others. This is a doctrine very fully revealed in the Scriptures”

-Jonathan Edwards, Degrees of Glory

Inequality is not necessarily inequity. Often talk related to disparities in income, opportunities, education, skills—you name it—centers on the issue of justice or equity. However, it may be that justice or injustice has little to do with inequalities. As in all matters, it is helpful to get somewhat of a God’s eye view on this rather easily misunderstood issue. What I’d like to do is briefly draw attention to one strand of biblical teaching worth considering as we discuss matters of inequality. I’ll do this with the help of Edwards and his eschatology.

Edwards argues that in heaven (after judgment) some folks will have more than others. Whatever it might mean to attain more or less “glory” is not the main concern here. The basic point is that in God’s perfected world, there will be inequality—no doubt a just inequality. Edwards makes the point through a number of biblical texts, including Luke 19’s parable of the ten “pounds.” He writes:

This is also a doctrine that we are very plainly and directly taught in the parable, in [the] nineteenth of Luke, of the nobleman travelling into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and delivering to his ten servants each of them a pound; who when he returned, having received his kingdom, reckoned with the servants; and one told his lord that he had with his pound gained ten pounds, and he rewards him by making of him ruler over ten cities; and another gained five pounds, and he is rewarded {by making of him ruler over five cities}.

Edwards then concludes:

This evidently respects the different degrees of reward that will [be] bestowed on Christ’s faithful servants at his coming to judgment, according as they have been more or less profitable. For doubtless by the nobleman that travelled into {a far country} to receive {for himself a kingdom} is meant Christ’s ascending to heaven to receive an heavenly kingdom; and by his returning again to call his servants to an account, is meant his coming again to judgment (Edwards, Degrees of Glory).

A key point for Edwards is that Christ is the one meting out unequal rewards. Therefore, the inequality of the rewards is the Lord’s intent. In fact, it can be said that in glory, inequality is the most equitable (read “just”) outcome. If Edwards is correct that there will be differing degrees of honor, blessing, or reward in the kingdom, then one need not be disturbed by present inequality in and of itself, as if it were contrary to God’s good will for humanity.

It is not so easy to argue that because there are inequalities geographically, culturally, ethnically, or whatever, that there is some kind of monkey business going on. The fact of inequality doesn’t spell injustice necessarily. In the new creation, according to Edwards, some will have while others will not, and this in the absence of greed and exploitation.

While inequality may not necessarily be inequity, the latter obviously requires attention, though not as a knee jerk response to the former. Maybe further reflection on the eschatological economy might aid our efforts, helping to bring Christian clarity to some of the economic and social issues at hand.